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Students Protest 32 Percent Fee Increase

blog_slug1Frustrated students leave classrooms and take to the streets

“I think it's great that enough people want to make a change, that they're all out here, skipping classes, not eating, not doing anything,” said UC Santa Cruz freshman Tess Geyer. “They're just out here protesting [and] standing up for the rights of our class itself and then future classes.”

The Nov. 18 protest was organized weeks earlier in conjunction with the regents' expected approval of a 32 percent fee increase that same afternoon.

The protest began at the Baytree Quarry Plaza at noon with an electric 400-person crowd. Rousing orators belted speeches from their megaphones, and slam poets commented on the injustice. The mob marched from the quarry plaza down to the base of campus at Bay and High Streets, where they gathered and blocked the East entrance. An open microphone and stereo powered by bicycle allowed people to offer thoughts and articulate their exasperation over the budget cuts.

blog_slug2From the base of campus, many protesters marched to the West Entrance, which they also blocked.  Students took votes on which cars to let through and agreed to let garbage trucks and parents going to pick up their kids pass. An altercation began, however, when a truck with 20 large concrete pipes for construction tried to force its way through. After arguing with the driver, students let the driver pass.

The protest left a bitter taste in the mouth of people in their cars, as traffic on parts of Empire Grade, High Street, Western Drive, and Meder Street for hours.  One man at the West Entrance sat in his car trying to persuade protesters to let him through.

“I feel pretty bad for him, but if we keep making exceptions for certain people, it gets bigger and bigger, and then anyone can come in,” said Geyer. “Our whole point for being here is to shut down the campus so that classes don't happen, and so that people realize how the classes would be without students.”

Groans erupted from the protesters in the street when a student on his cell phone announced that the UC Regents had already approved the fee hike at their conference in UCLA. The fees will increase next quarter and in the fall, representing a 32 percent increase over the next year.

“You're just getting rid of any chance you have to get new people,” said Geyer. “You don't know what people you're turning away. They could have ideas to fix this whole problem and recession, but you're never gonna know because they can't afford to come here.”

Traffic improved at 4:30 p.m. when students left both campus entrances for a student occupation the Kresge Town Hall where they would plan their next day of protest and action.

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